Starting Friday, there will be a second advance voting site in Muscogee County.

After a week of long lines at the City Services Center, people will be able to vote downtown at the Convention & Trade Center.

To help staff the Trade Center advance voting site, Muscogee County Director of Elections Nancy Boren has turned to the furloughed Trade Center Staff.

Back in March when COVID hit the Chattahoochee Valley, the Trade Center laid off most of its catering staff.

Muscogee County received $200,000 in grant funding to assist in elections from the USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy.

Boren has put that money to use, opening up more voting opportunities for Columbus voters.

The Trade Center staff gets to go back to work for a couple of weeks.

“This has been a blessing in disguise,” said Hayley Tillery, the executive director. “We were already excited to be able to partner with Nancy and her team by having voting here. But to be able to do it sooner and to know that we can now incorporate our team members who have been furloughed, it’s just amazing.”

For the workers this is good news.

The workers went through training on Thursday. They will be teaming with regular election staff, assisting voters, and sanitizing equipment. The advance voting polls at the Trade Center and the City Services Center will be open through October 30th. Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“We have been out of work for the most part since March when the pandemic hit,” said Hope Mathews, a Trade Center cook. “We haven’t really had a chance to serve our community. And this is going to help to serve our community on a grander scale in honestly one of the most important elections in our lifetime. Just to be back together. Our Trade Center staff is like family. So, we are excited.”

For some servers, it is another kind of service.

“Just being at work. We took work for granted,” said Fonia Troche, a Trade Center server. “And now I am grateful. I am grateful for these hours, grateful to be able to serve my community.”

And she looks at the work as a blessing.

“Just this little bit of time we got here, it’s great to me,” Troche said. “Because something is better than nothing.”

Bernice Carter has worked at the Trade Center for 16 years – she misses her co-workers and those who frequented the Trade Center regularly.

“It helps us so we can help everyone else,” Carter said. “There are a lot of people out there who are trying to help each other.”